Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Radio Free Spirit - Bonnie and Clyde

Thank you, Joan Holloway and Mad Men for this genuine musical gem by Serge Gainsbourg and Bridgitte Bardot. 'Bonnie and Clyde' is a beautiful song in my opinion because it exemplifies the simple and understated beauty of the French that shows our often gaudy and overblown American popular culture how to truly entertain on a more sublime level.

Fun fact: I had the opportunity to work with a student who is directly related to Clyde Parker. To a history geek like me, it's very interesting...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Homegrown business needs your love!

I am biased, I must say in advance because I am promoting a great business that happens to be owned and operated by a person who happens to be a former student of mine - and this student is going into the United States Air Force! Well, this former Airman First Class is going to ask for your help anyway!

Pyne Tree Organics makes organic soaps, candles, shampoo and other toiletries and is not just a part of the process, Pyne Tree Organics IS the process. Not only does Pyne Tree create, Pyne Tree will teach others how to make organic goodies of their own.

Pyne Tree Organics of Yulee, Florida is now vying for funding to help their dream come true. Intuit is sponsoring a competition that will help support 15 homegrown businesses. To vote for Pyne Tree, please visit Small Business Growing Strong and vote for Pyne Tree Organics!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earth Day

DIVINE MIND is the one and only reality. When we incorporate the ideas that form this Mind into our mind and persevere in those ideas, a mighty strength wells up within us. Then we have a foundation for the spiritual body, the body not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. When the spiritual body is established in consciousness, its strength and power is transmitted to the visible body and to all the things that we touch in the world about us. - Charles Fillmore, Prosperity

Earth Day is a special celebration of us and our environment. As we express a common desire for a better world, we begin from within. How we treat our planet is directly related to how we treat ourselves and each other. Yes, we want to have a clean planet for our children and future generations. We, however, take the first steps on this journey by promoting our own divinity and transmitting that into the larger perspective of improving our world.

My thoughts on Earth Day 2013 are that we are responsible as individuals to affect the kind of change we seek to promote understanding, conservation and preservation. We begin by acting locally and thinking globally to make Earth Day a reality in our daily works throughout the year and in the course of our lives. Of course, it is easier said than done, but we have to begin somewhere.

We are surrounded by what we might call challenges that put our future in peril. I would dare say, too, that we live among an infinite number of solutions of all sizes that we can summon for our use if we enter into the silence and seek the right answers. We can all be problem solvers if we connect with the mind that is the source of our power.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An open letter to Boston

In ‘Atom Smashing Power of Mind,” Charles Fillmore writes, “The great and most important issue before the people today is the development of man's spiritual mind and through it unity with God.”

Although tragedy has befallen your city and our nation, I affirm that our connection with Spirit continues in earnest because it is our mission to transcend the physical world of pain and seek our true existence as children of God.

I stand with you in prayer and contemplation and reaffirm our continued unity with our creator.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Library Appreciation Week 2013 :-)

This week is Library Appreciation Week and I would like to begin by dedicating this blog post to Mary Sapp. When I was in junior high school, Mrs. Sapp was our librarian - or media specialist in 'newspeak.' I already was an avid fan of books and media, but Mrs. Sapp helped cultivate in me a desire for learning that remains with me today.

Where did this reading jones begin? My earliest memories of reading come from those formative days of reading Dr. Seuss books with my mother who stayed home with me during the day to enrich my ever-expanding mind. I remember eagerly running to the mailbox to pick up the latest edition of Highlights Magazine. I recall the day that my mother arranged for me to get my first library card even before I entered Kindergarten. And, as the late Paul Harvey liked to say, there was the rest of the story...

I do not know where my learning would have gone without the likes of Mrs. Durbin and Mr. Harbin at W.E. Cherry Elementary or Mrs. Brummitt at Orange Park High School. I felt at home in the Media Center (Or library in 'oldspeak') because the educators who worked there were like travel agents who arranged for me to see new places and experience new awakenings with the opening of every book.

All along my path to today, I am grateful to the free public resources that have been, and hopefully will continue to be, available to people of all ages. Andrew Carnegie was right when he set about making knowledge and enlightenment available to the masses. Even among the captains of industry during the Gilded Age, there was an appreciation for the power of the pen and the impact of the page. The greatest ancient libraries eventually met their doom, but we are much more evolved than allowing our stacks to fall to the wayside for the sake of so-called progress.

This week, I implore you, your families, your friends and your communities to save our culture by appreciating our libraries and advocating on behalf of these hallowed halls of knowledge for ourselves and for those tho inherit our culture and civilization. There, of course is a price to our support but our libraries have a value that is priceless!


Radio Free Spirit

The sound of this song is relentless in my mind and it wears at my soul like a gentle stream breaking down a boulder and eroding it into a trillion little pebbles that find new homes downstream. Each pebble either finds its own new home on the bed of the stream or finds itself in the hands of someone who seeks a keepsake for their own use. Lovely song by an awesome group - Telepathe....

The Miracle Worker

"My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil's mind, and behold, all things are changed!" - Anne Sullivan

If you have read the classic story "The Miracle Worker" by William Gibson, you already know of the struggle it took for Anne Sullivan to bring light and learning into Helen Keller's life. Sullivan and Keller go hand-in-hand, quite literally, in the latter's life story of overcoming darkness to find true enlightenment in this world.

Today is Anne Sullivan's birthday and serves as a lesson for those educators and mentors who often grow weary and frustrated in their work against all odds. Yes, there are those among us who choose to remain blind and there are those of us who soldier on and never surrender in our daily war against ignorance and metaphysical blindness. We can open our eyes if we want and we can when we have inspirations such as Anne Sullivan in our lives.

We all have our road to Damascus or our water pump where our minds awaken to the reality of our potential to opening new doors to the future. Anne Sullivan opened that door and ushered her young charge into a new world and a greater future. It took two, however, as this 'Aha!' moment broke new ground for the student to move forward upon her new found epiphany with her teacher.

Whoever your guide is in life, know that that person or persons are catalysts who merely help you find your voice and your spark. It is up to you to light that fire and keep it burning for yourself and your world.

Happy Birthday, Anne Sullivan!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Radio Free Spirit

What has surprised me about my blog is that I am getting quite a few hits from viewers of a music video that was a spiritual inspiration for me in my younger years. I hope that this video clip provides the same inspiration for visitors that it has given me. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Failure by design

If teachers were to grade their students in an inconsistent, convoluted and subjective manner, they would be run out of the teaching profession.

In their crusade to point fingers and direct blame for the failings of our education system, however, our state's leaders created a similar system for evaluating our teachers.

Florida's policymakers turned a deaf ear to the teachers who tried to point out the inadequacies of the Collaborative Assessment System for Teachers (CAST) when it was being fast tracked through the lawmaking process for the sake of winning a pot of gold from the federal Race to the Top (RTT) grant program.

Nevermind that Florida is the same state that continues to refuse expanding Medicaid on the ground that they do not want abdicate states' rights to empower Washington to impose its will on 50 separate sovereign entities.

The rush to create a data-based evaluation system replaced the thoughtful and reflective process of passing laws with a frenzy to chase after federal funding and with a political power grab that still leaves local school districts dizzy with confusion and disarray.

I was encouraged to read in the Orlando Sentinel a thoughtful column by Beth Kassab that exposes the deficiencies in the CAST system and how it actually hurts the teachers whom we trust to educate our children.

For example, she shares the story of how one Central Florida high school is one of the highest performing schools in the state. This 'A' school enjoys a graduation rate that is the envy of others and yet their learning growth was negative.

"How can this be?" asks Kassab, "How can a school with excellent student performance be populated with clueless teachers?" I know how these same education professionals can improve a school grade and yet be subject to the sanctions and condemnation that are designed to punish more than enlighten.

There are serious inconsistencies in how we rate our schools and our teachers. While FCAT is the instrument for measuring student growth in language arts, mathematics and selected science courses, it was left to the individual school districts to create assessments for the non-FCAT courses. This resulted in a patchwork of 67 school systems with varying benchmarks for student success. The state decided that all courses would have some form of assessment for all non-FCAT courses, but failed to support this mandate with funding. Instead of a reliable system of tracking student progress, we are doomed to compare apples with oranges across county lines.

What is the most absurd aspect of the testing and data driving our perception of public schools is that FCAT scores are often used to tell us what non-FCAT teachers are doing for their students. For example, a guidance counselor or an art teacher can be judged based on schoolwide FCAT numbers. Furthermore, reading scores are being used to indicate the quality of a history teacher's work. The measurements are all over the place and can potentially harm those educators who are indeed trying their best.

Besides the assessment part of teacher evaluations, our leaders presumed that the observation-based section of teacher assessments would be equally objective as the CAST instrument invited administrators to monitor their teachers in the classroom based on one day's worth of sitting in a classroom and using this single class period as the basis for judging a year's worth of teaching.

This, in my opinion, is rife with politics because administrators are given free reign to make up their minds based on an hour's worth of what they see. This simply encourages teachers to design lessons that are geared to impress their superiors and these dog-and-pony shows fail to actually reflect the individual talents for which we have trusted our educators with using in their respective classrooms. Once the observation is complete, the evaluator's word is gospel and all else be damned.

In an age of high stakes testing, this is a most perverse form of high stakes evaluations. Failure to make the grade based on these flawed metrics can ultimately result in teachers' pay being frozen or even in their termination. Yes, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

"We can be an 'A' school and conceivably get that [paycheck] bonus, but if we get three negative scores in a row then the teachers can all be replaced," said one prinicpal in a letter to state lawmakers, according to Kassab's commentary.

Yes, this is a messed up system that is supposed to help our students, but in the meantime is destroying Florida's teaching profession.

For more information about Kassab's commentary, please see this link.